After recovery from a stroke, people often have difficulties moving one of their arm, which is often called the “weak” arm or the affected arm. We use our arms a lot in our daily lives, for example to eat, to dress, to drive a car, to use a computer, to play sports, etc. That is why there is a lot of emphasis on regaining arm function during stroke rehabilitation. In our lab, we are looking at the use of robotics as a tool to help with arm rehabilitation.
Specialized robotic devices have been designed in order to provide assistance to arm movements during rehabilitation: the robot physically helps the person to complete an arm movement. Robots will not replace physical and occupational therapists; but their advantage is that they can provide the right amount of assistance during arm rehabilitation, over and over again, while never getting tired.
In our work, we are experimenting with the Haptic Master robot. Our setup allows people with stroke to practice reaching to different targets, presented on a computer screen. Moving the arm moves a virtual hand on the screen. The amount of assistance provided by the robot is decreased as participants get better. Our work shows that people with stroke are able to move more smoothly and require less assistance, after repeated practice with the robotic device.
We are also collaborating with Kinova on evaluating the effectiveness of the JACO assistive device. JACO is a robotic arm that can be mounted on a wheelchair. It can be controlled by a joystick in order to reach and grasp items, for individuals with limited arm movements. It helps them become more independent in their daily lives.
We are currently running the SUPER project (PerSonalized Upper Extremity Rehabilitation for persons with moderate and severe impairments due to stroke). This intervention combines robotics-assisted activities and exergames.